A Look at The Rangers Youth At the NHL Level and More….

By Evan Andriopoulos

Over the past several seasons, to an extent since the 1993-94 season the Rangers organization has struggled to re-stock the system for a future run at the cup whilst struggling even more to keep a most competitive veteran club on the ice. The likes of Daniel Goneau have been spotted in Rangers blue as have Johan Holmqvist and even Jason Labarbera.

As former Ranger prospects Doug Weight, Todd Marchant, Aaron Miller and more find their niches in the NHL and have blossomed into stars or solid NHLers, the Rangers for one reason or another have had a great deal of trouble bringing these kinds of players up from their own system into the NHL as Rangers, long time Rangers.

During this offseason G.M. Glen Sather did a stellar job in loading the Rangers AHL affiliate in Hartford with young talent such as Matt Kinch, Layne Ulmer, Mikael Samuelsson(via San Jose trade) and so on… even some have found their way to New York with the likes of Dan Blackburn via the 2001 draft and former 1st rounder (BUF) Barrett Heisten. But the age old question remains…”why are the Rangers signing journeyman veterans or former stars well past their prime and not giving the prospects a shot?”

Is Mike Mottau that horrible that Igor Ulanov or Darren Van Impe deserve the ice time ahead of him? Brad Smyth hardly a prospect but a lethal AHL scorer, that poor an investment to give him more than a 4th line , 2 minute shift in the NHL? Manny Malhotra after several seasons in the doghouse…is he that bad that he deserves less ice time than say… Zdeno Ciger who is at times more interested in “not” playing than playing? And last year was Valeri Kamensky that much better?

The answer in my straight from the honest belt is definitely “NO”… The problems lies within the most upper echelon of the Rangers management team. Their concerns lay more on today`s product than a gentle but fare blend of todays and tomorrows. While their goal appears to be to win enough games to make the 1st round of the playoffs (a failure over the past several seasons)and sell enough jerseys and merchandise to make the season a “success”. This is wrong…ofcourse we all know that… but this is professional New York sports where a winner today is the most important aspect. The problem is the product they have put on the ice has been good, about 10 years ago…is “was” good (on their respective team).

It becomes painful to watch the likes of Igor Ulanov, Zdeno Ciger(for the most part), Darren Van Impe and Dave Karpa(get`s a big E for effort and a bigger L for lack of talent) go into the corners or even carry the puck, the most basic fundamentals of the game. Erstwhile the Rangers kids who when they get the chance, see…Manny Malhotra, Barrett Heisten and Tomas Kloucek work their “butts” with a big “B” off and for their effort… the receive less ice each next shift. While the big boys and now even the little boys are taking shots at Eric Lindros, Petr Nedved and Mark Messier guys like the useless Sandy “forgot my game” McCarthy skate around… Dale Purinton and Kloucek, two of our current NHL kids work harder and harder at defending the entire team, organization and NHL-New York-Manhattan this has become a work overload for these guys who earn near the NHL minimum while the fat cats “the expensive veterans” sit back and are happy to grab their next social security check for the trip to Clearwater in the offseason for golf without a bruise on their body from a rugged (for some) 82 game season.

Why not play the kids that try? albeit Dale Purinton will never be confused with Brad Park, his effort on the ice surpasses most of our most talented veterans, why not play Mike Mottau a former top prospect on defense who`s value has diminished greatly and he looks more and more like a career minor leaguer unless he is released from his chains of New York/Hartford. Is it better to see Ulanov who has played for just about every club in the NHL and Russia make a mistake while logging 18-20 minutes a game or would it be better to see Mottau gain valuable NHL ice and make the mistakes? The real question is… will Ulanov learn from his mistakes…? the answer is no… ask Tampa, Edmonton and everyone else he has played for… Would Mike Mottau learn? yes… he has been a dominating force in the AHL and it is his time.

The Rico Fata experiment has turned into the Alexander Daigle result…he was waived, a possible NHL star just a season ago has faded… he is looking for employment somewhere else, try acting. Now we see another mini wave of prospects coming up… Jeff Toms, no not him, Steve McKenna.. not really but he will only help take the pounding that Dale Purinton has taken, but Mikael Samuelsson, the speedy technical winger out of Mariefred, Sweden has recorded 9 points in the AHL, second on the club and recorded 32 snipes last season with Kentucky in the AHL. This mini waves ice time will be probably as little as those before, an odd shift and then back when he does not bury a hat trick in 5 minutes… This is New York sports.

In the end we should look to the always struggling Tampa Bay Lightning who whipped the Rangers just a short time ago…is it more painful to watch their youth (Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, etc…) play or is it more painful to watch the over paid, no hit Rangers veterans? I will go out on a limb…the Rangers. And now…Mr.Sather& Low can we please dump this extra baggage and give the Richard Scotts, Mottaus and Heistens more ice time?